Author: Scott Moore

DOL Electronic Injury & Illness Reporting

Proposed Changes to the OSHA Electronic Injury & Illness Reporting Requirements

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing amendments to its occupational injury and illness recordkeeping regulation, 29 CFR 1904.41. The current regulation requires certain employers to electronically submit their summary injury and illness data (Form 300A) to OSHA annually. OSHA uses these reports to identify and respond to emerging hazards and makes aspects of the information publicly available.

In addition to reporting their Annual Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, the proposed rule would require certain establishments in certain high-hazard industries to electronically submit additional information from their Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, as well as their Injury and Illness Incident Report (Form 300, 300A, & 301). The latest proposed rule will require certain employers to submit more detailed information and is a return to the original electronic data submission rule that was proposed in 2016 and rolled back in 2017, prior to the rule taking effect. EMS organizations will be included in those industries that are considered high-hazard and thus, required to submit this information.

As we reported last month, OSHA reported that there was a 249% increase in illnesses and injuries reported by healthcare employers in 2020. This is no surprise given that this was at the heart of the pandemic. OSHA believes this rule will improve the agency’s ability to use the information in its enforcement and compliance assistance efforts to identify workplaces where workers are at high risk.

The proposed rule would:

  • Require establishments with one hundred (100) or more employees in certain high-hazard industries to electronically submit information from their OSHA Forms 300, 301, and 300A to OSHA once a year. Currently, only the Form 300A summary data is submitted electronically.
  • Update the classification system used to determine the list of industries covered by the electronic submission requirement.
  • Remove the current requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees not in a designated industry to electronically submit information from their Form 300A to OSHA annually.
  • Require establishments to include their company name when making electronic submissions to OSHA.

Under the proposed rule, establishments with 20-99 employees in certain high-hazard industries would continue to be required to electronically submit information from their OSHA Form 300A annual summary to OSHA annually.

Those interested can submit comments must do so by May 30, 2022. If you have questions about your organization’s reporting requirements under the OSHA Regulations, be sure to contact the AAA at hello@ambulance.org for assistance.

DOL COVID-19 Exposure Rule-Making

The United States Department of Labor (US DOL) has published a notice of intent to partially reopen the rule-making process to permit additional comment and a public hearing on certain aspects of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare employers which was originally published in June 2021. OSHA is seeking further input from stakeholders as they develop a final standard. The public hearing will begin on April 27, 2022.

The agency is reopening the rulemaking record to allow for new data and comments on topics, including the following:

  • Alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for healthcare infection control procedures.
  • Additional flexibility for employers to permit less prescriptive requirements
  • Removal of scope exemptions.
  • Tailoring controls to address interactions with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • Employer support for employees who wish to be vaccinated.
  • Limited coverage of construction activities in healthcare settings.
  • COVID-19 recordkeeping and reporting provisions.
  • Triggering requirements based on community transmission levels.
  • The potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2 into a second novel strain.
  • The health effects and risk of COVID-19 since the ETS was issued.

OSHA made it clear that it is not proposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers. However, they are seeking comments regarding how it could help employers further support healthcare worker employees in their vaccination and boosting efforts. This could include paid leave, including travel time, for those seeking vaccinations or boosters.

The notice in the Federal Register had a slightly more relaxed tone as many areas in the country have seen a significant drop-off in cases.  If you are interested in submitting comments, you can do so electronically at www.regulations.gov.  If you wish to attend the video-based public hearing, you must file a notice of intention to appear with the US DOL within 14 days of the notice being officially published in the Federal Register.

If you have any questions about your current obligations under the OSHA rules, please email the AAA at hello@ambulance.org.

New for Members | 2022 Human Resources Manual!

The 2022 Human Resources Toolkit includes the addition of numerous practice notes intended to provide EMS leaders with a more practical understanding of the legal principles that necessitate much of the language found in many of the sample policies in the HR Manual. Additionally, the practice notes provide suggestions for EMS agencies to better insulate the organization from legal liability.

Members, Download Your Free PDF Copy!

5th Circuit Lifts Injunction on CMS Mandatory Vaccine Requirement for Half of U.S.

On December 15, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling which modifies an earlier court national injunction related to the CMS mandatory vaccination rules.  In the latest ruling, the court upheld the injunction issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri as it applied to the fourteen (14) plaintiff states, Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.  However, it overturned the lower court’s expansion of that injunction to other, non-plaintiff states, in the injunction.  Meaning that between the 5th and 8th Circuit Court rulings, the CMS mandatory vaccination injunction only applies to the following 24 states:

5th Circuit Plaintiffs: Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio

8th Circuit Plaintiffs: Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire.

States not covered by the CMS mandatory vaccination injunction:

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin

This decision, follows another mandatory vaccine related decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit which criticized the Louisiana court for expanding the CMS vaccine mandate nationwide given that a Florida District Court had already refused to issue an injunction and because it felt that it was likely that the mandate was likely authorized under current CMS rules.

What does this mean for employers?

If you are an employer in one of the states not covered by an injunction, you should consult with any covered healthcare facility that your organization performs services under contract. These covered healthcare facilities will be required to mandate vaccination for their staff and for any contractor staff that interacts with their employees or patients.  Additionally, they will be seeking proof that your staff is vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they have a protected medical or religious accommodation.

Employers should have already taken the initial steps toward compliance with the CMS mandatory vaccination rules, including having a list of all employees with their vaccination status.  Additionally, employers should have an established policy related to mandatory vaccination and a procedure for requesting and processing an exception/accommodation requests. Lastly, healthcare institutions may independently institute mandatory vaccination rules for their employees and can require this of anyone entering their facility, including EMS staff.

We will continue to keep you post as these cases proceed through the legal system. These facilities may still independently require your staff to be vaccinated. If your organization has questions or need assistance deciphering or preparing for these requirements, please contact the AAA by emailing hello@ambulance.org.

 

 

 

Federal Court Enjoins the CMS Mandatory Vaccine Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

On Monday, November 29, 2021, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri – Eastern Division has issued a preliminary injunction staying the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Mandatory Vaccination Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) which were set to take effect on January 4, 2022. This preliminary injunction currently only applies to healthcare providers in the plaintiff states.

On November 10, 2021, the States of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, and New Hampshire filed a nine (9) count complaint in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Missouri seeking relief from the CMS Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) which requires certain certified healthcare facilities to mandate COVID-19 vaccination of all employees, contractors, and those performing services “under arrangement.”  The complaint alleged that the ETS violates numerous provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the Social Security Act (SSA), that CMS failed to consult with the state agencies that would be charged with enforcing such a mandate, failure to perform an impact analysis of the new rules, and several other Constitutional violations.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp, agreed with the plaintiffs that a preliminary injunction was warranted because it posed an irreparable harm and that the plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their complaint. The thirty-two (32) page ruling cites that Congress did not give CMS the authority to enact the mandatory vaccination regulations, nor authorized CMS to issue regulations that pre-empt validly enacted state legislation that contradict these new rules. The court believed that the plaintiffs would likely be able to show that CMS violated numerous administrative and rulemaking procedures.

Throughout the ruling the court cited the likelihood of significant harm to state sovereignty and how the implementation of the rule’s requirements would cause substantial economic harm to both the states and the healthcare facilities. Not only through the cost of implementation but also through the impact to a healthcare facility’s ability to provide care due to employees who refuse to get vaccinated.

This ruling is only applicable to covered healthcare facilities in the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, and New Hampshire. It is unknown if the stay will be expanded to other jurisdictions. Additionally, the OSHA Vaccination & Testing ETS is currently enjoined and OHSA has announced that they will halt implementation and enforcement associated with those rules. Despite these rulings, many EMS employers are subject to the mandatory vaccination requirements under the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors.

I advise employers to take the initial steps toward compliance while these cases proceed through the legal system. EMS employers are already required to have policies and procedures to determine and maintain a log of their employee’s vaccination status. Additionally, many EMS employers have already been contacted by their contracted healthcare facilities who have enacted a vaccine mandate, either prior to, or in response to the CMS ETS.  These facilities may still independently require your staff to be vaccinated.

I recognize that these are incredibly challenging times. If your organization has questions or need assistance deciphering or preparing for these requirements, please contact the AAA by emailing hello@ambulance.org.

 

Federal Government Releases COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement Rules: CMS and OSHA Outline Requirements for Certain Health Care Providers and Certain Employers

by Scott Moore, J.D. & Kathy Lester, J.D. M.P.H.

Today, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), released the highly anticipated mandatory COVID-19 vaccination regulations for employers with 100 or more employees and new COVID-19 vaccination requirements in the Conditions of Participation (COPs)/Conditions for Coverage (CfCs).

OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination Regulations

A summary of the new rules can be found on the OSHA website.  Under this latest rule, OSHA stated that any employer who is subject to the Healthcare ETS released in June, 2021 is not subject to the Vaccination and Testing ETS.  This would include many EMS employers.  However, healthcare employers should refer to the Healthcare ETS to ensure that they are in compliance with those requirements.

It is important for EMS employers to note, where they have “healthcare support services”, as defined under §1910.502(vi) of the Healthcare ETS, that are not subject to the Healthcare ETS because these employees are segregated in non-healthcare settings (stand-alone administrative facilities), those employees will be subject to the requirements Vaccination and Testing ETS.

There was nothing in the latest ETS that prevents employers from instituting a mandatory vaccination requirement for its employees.  Many EMS employers are already required to mandate vaccination under a state or local law.  These employers may continue to require vaccinations for its employees.

CMS COVID-19 Health Staff Vaccination Rule

CMS also released an Interim Final Rule with Comment (IFC) governing health care staff vaccination requirements, as well as a Press Release, Fact Sheet, and Frequently Asked Questions.  While the IFC regulations do not directly apply to ground ambulance suppliers, the definition of staff that includes individuals contracted with or that have other arrangements with facilities directly regulated will be indirectly subject to the rules through their arrangements with the facilities.  For example, an EMS service that has no contract or arrangement with any of the directly covered health care facilities listed below should not be subject to the CMS requirements.  However, a ground ambulance service that has a contract with a nursing home to provide interfacility transports, for example, would be indirectly affected because of the requirement on the nursing home to ensure that contractors meet the vaccine requirements.  Additionally, there the regulations do not prevented a health care facility from creating their own requirements on vendors that do not have an existing contract with the facility.

The ICF amends the existing Conditions or Participation / Conditions for Coverage for the following facilities:

  • Ambulatory Surgery Centers;
  • Community Mental Health Centers;
  • Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facilities;
  • Critical Access Hospitals;
  • End-Stage Renal Disease Facilities;
  • Home Health Agencies;
  • Home Infusion Therapy Suppliers;
  • Hospices;
  • Hospitals;
  • Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Clinics, Rehabilitation Agencies, and Public Health Agencies as Providers of Outpatient Physical Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology Services;
  • Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs);
  • Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly Organizations (PACE);
  • Rural Health Clinics/Federally Qualified Health Centers; and
  • Long Term Care facilities.

The IFC requires facilities to develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all staff are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.  Exclusions from the requirement are permitted for staff (or contactors) who have pending requests for, or who have been granted, exceptions to the vaccine requirements or those staff for whom COVID-19 vaccinations must be temporarily delayed, as recommended by the CDC, due to clinical precautions and considerations.

Staff is defined to include employees, as well as licensed practitioners, students, trainees, volunteers, and “[i]ndividuals who provide care, treatment, or other services for the facility and/or its patients, under contract or by other arrangement.”

The IFC excludes (1) staff that exclusively provide telehealth/telemedicine services outside of the facility setting and that do not have direct contact with patients and (2) staff that provide support services exclusively outside of the facility setting and that do not have direct contact with patients.

The IFC defines an individual as fully vaccinated when 2 weeks or more has passed since the staff completed a primary vaccination series for COVID-19.  That can be either the administration of a single-dose vaccine or the administration of all required doses of a multi-dose vaccine.  It does not include booster shots.

Facilities directly regulated by the COPs/CfCs will have to have policies and procedures to implement the requirement.  Among these requirements is a process for ensuring the implementation of additional precautions, intended to mitigate transmission and spread of COVD-19, for all staff (and contractors) who are not fully vaccinated.  There are also contingency planning requirements and documentation and tracking requirements.

The IFC provides facilities 30 days to make sure that staff have received at least the first dose of a primary series or a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine prior the staff providing any care, treatment, or other services for the facility and/or its patients.  Within 60 days, the facility must ensure that staff have completed the primary vaccination services (except for those who have been granted an exemption or exclusion).

CMS will enforce the regulations through the existing onsite compliance review process with state survey agencies. Accreditation organizations will also be required to update their survey processes.  If a facility is not in compliance, the existing enforcement remedies related to the COPs/CfCs, which can include termination from the Medicare program, will apply.

The rule preempts state law under Article VI § 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

The rule takes effect November 5, but stakeholders have 60 days to provide comments with comments due by January 4, 2022.

 

             

 

OCR Issues Guidance on HIPAA, COVID-19 Vaccinations, and the Workplace

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to help the public understand when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule applies to disclosures and requests for information about whether a person has received a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the guidance, OCR reminds the public that the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to employers or employment records. The HIPAA Privacy Rule only applies to HIPAA covered entities (health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers that conduct standard electronic transactions), and, in some cases, to their business associates.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to most EMS providers but only as it relates to it’s patient’s Protect Health Information (PHI).

Today’s guidance addresses common workplace scenarios and answers questions about whether and how the HIPAA Privacy Rule applies. The Privacy Rule does not apply when an individual:

  • Is asked about their vaccination status by a school, employer, store, restaurant, entertainment venue, or another individual.
  • Asks another individual, their doctor, or a service provider whether they are vaccinated.
  • Asks a company, such as a home health agency, whether its workforce members are vaccinated.

Generally, the Privacy Rule does not regulate what information can be requested from employees as part of the terms and conditions of employment that an employer may impose on its workforce

The Privacy Rule does not prohibit a covered entity or business associate from requiring or requesting each workforce member to:

  • Provide documentation of their COVID-19 or flu vaccination to their current or prospective employer.
  • Sign a HIPAA authorization for a covered health care provider to disclose the workforce member’s COVID-19 or other vaccination record to their employer.
  • Wear a mask–while in the employer’s facility, on the employer’s property, or in the normal course of performing their duties at another location.
  • Disclose whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccine in response to queries from current or prospective patients.

OCR stated that they are issuing this guidance to help consumers, businesses, and health care entities understand when HIPAA applies to disclosures about COVID-19 vaccination status and to ensure that they have the information they need to make informed decisions about protecting themselves and others from COVID-19.

More details about the latest guidance on HIPAA, COVID-19 Vaccinations, and the Workplace may be found at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/hipaa-covid-19-vaccination-workplace/index.html.  If you have questions regarding what information you may or may not share relative to COVID-19 vaccinations, please contact the AAA for assistance.

 

New Guidance on COVID-19 Workplace Safety for Federal Contractors

This week, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force released new guidance on COVID-19 workplace safety protocols for Federal contractors and subcontractors.  On September 9, President Biden signed Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, which directed executive departments and agencies to ensure that all federal contractors and subcontractors comply with all guidance published by the Task Force. These workplace safety protocols will apply to all covered contractor and subcontractor employees in covered contractor workplaces even if they are not working on Federal Government contracts.

Overview of Workplace Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

Pursuant to the guidance issued this week, and in addition to any requirements or workplace safety protocols that are applicable because a contractor or subcontractor employee is present at a Federal workplace, Federal contractors and subcontractors with a covered contract will be required to conform to the following workplace safety protocols:

  1. COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to a medical or religious accommodation;
  2. Compliance by individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, with the Guidance related to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces; and
  3. Designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.

The guidance provides details regarding who is included under these new rules.  Under the latest guidance, a “Covered Contractor Employee” means any full-time or part-time employee of a covered contractor” working on” or “in connection with” a covered contract or working at a covered contractor workplace. This includes employees of covered contractors who are not themselves working on or in connection with a covered contract, except for those employees who only perform work outside the United States or its outlying areas.  This means that all ambulance service employees, who perform work related to or in connection with the contract, such as dispatchers, human resource and billing personnel, training staff, etc. are subject to the new requirements.  This includes employees working from remotely or from home, who are performing work in connection with the contract.

Under the guidance, a “Covered Contractor Workplaces” are locations controlled by a covered contractor at which any employee of a covered contractor working on or in connection with a covered contract is likely to be present during the period of performance for a covered contract.  This includes those workplaces such as ambulance stations, administrative offices, etc.

Vaccination of Covered Contractor Employees

Covered contractors must ensure that all their covered employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 unless the employee is legally entitled to an accommodation. Covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated no later than December 8, 2021.  The guidance detailed that vaccination is required of all employees, even if they have previously been infected with COVID-19.

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination

Under this guidance, the contractor or subcontractor must review the covered employee’s documentation to prove vaccination status.  The guidance identifies the list of acceptable documents an employee can furnish to prove vaccination, including:

  1. Copy of Immunization Record from a healthcare provider or pharmacy
  2. Copy of the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (CDC Form MLS-319813_r, published 9/3/2020)
  3. Copy of Medical Records documenting the vaccination
  4. Copy of Immunization Records from a public health or State Immunization Information System
  5. Copy of any other official documentation verifying vaccination with information of:
    1. Vaccine name
    2. Date of administration
    3. Name of healthcare professional or clinic site administering the vaccine

*Digital copies of these records are acceptable (jpg, scanned PDF, etc.)

The guidance specified that a signed attestation by the employee is not acceptable proof of vaccination.  Additionally, the guidance stated that recent COVID-19 antibody tests do not satisfy the requirements under these rules.

Masking and Physical Distancing While in Covered Contractor Workplaces

Covered contractors must ensure that all individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, comply with published CDC guidance for masking and physical distancing at a covered contractor workplace. The guidance provided more details on these masking and physical distancing requirements.  These include requiring unvaccinated individuals to mask indoors and in certain outdoor settings regardless of COVID-19 transmission levels.  Contractors are required to monitor the community transmission levels on the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker County View website on a weekly basis.

COVID-19 Coordinator Designation

Covered contractors must designate a person or persons to coordinate implementation of, and compliance with, these workplace safety protocols at covered contractor workplaces. Their responsibilities to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety protocols may comprise some or all of their regular duties.  This individual can be the same person who is designated under other state or local COVID-19 safety requirements.

Finally

The guidance makes it clear that the rules applicable to all federal contractors and supersedes any state or local rules or regulations that are contrary to these provisions.  That means that any rules that prohibit mask or other COVID-19 related safety mandates, or otherwise contradict the rules under this guidance will not excuse a federal contractor’s obligations under these rules.

The guidance will be finalized by the Office of Management & Budget in the coming days.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or need assistance, contact the AAA at hello@ambulance.org.

HHS PRF Tranche 4 | Important Funding Opportunity for EMS Providers


Speaker: Scott Moore, Esq. | Share on Facebook
This funding opportunity will distribute $25.5 billion in additional Phase 4 General Distribution for EMS agencies and American Rescue Plan (ARP) payments for qualified rural providers who furnish services to Medicaid/CHIP and Medicare beneficiaries. It is critical for all #EMS providers to apply for this funding opportunity regardless of previous funding allocations. We have learned that many EMS providers did not apply for the Tranche 3 funding opportunity because they did not believe that they would be eligible to receive funds under the announced funding formula. Due to the limited number of applicants in Tranche 3, HRSA modified the formula and many who failed to apply would have received funds. We are recommending that all EMS agencies apply to receive the funding that they desperately need. The deadline for applying is 11:59 p.m. on October 26, 2021. There is no penalty for applying.

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